Types of Eczema on Feet, Symptoms, and How to Treat It

Medically Reviewed By Reema Patel, MPA, PA-C

Eczema refers to numerous conditions that can cause dry, itchy skin. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the feet. Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters on the soles of the feet. Various treatments for eczema on the feet include topical medications and home remedies. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatments to soothe itchy skin and reduce the risk of complications such as infection.

This article discusses eczema that affects feet, its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and when to contact a doctor.

What are the types and causes of eczema on feet?

A woman applying moisturizer to her foot
Predrag Popovski/Getty Images

There are seven types of eczema, and most can affect the skin of the feet. There are two, though, that tend to affect the feet more than other areas of the body: dyshidrotic eczema and neurodermatitis.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema tends to affect the hands and feet. Doctors sometimes call it “foot eczema” when it occurs on the feet.

Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters on the soles that can be intensely itchy and may cause a burning sensation.

Though doctors are unsure of the condition’s cause, it is more common in people with other eczema types. A family history of dyshidrotic eczema may also affect the condition’s development.

Learn more about dyshidrotic eczema.

Neurodermatitis

This eczema can appear anywhere on the body but is common on the feet, hands, and upper body.

Neurodermatitis causes intense itching, which can cause strong skin lines, scaly skin, and discoloration.

The exact cause of neurodermatitis is unclear. However, it may occur when nerves in the skin overreact to a trigger such as an insect bite or an injury. You are also more likely to develop neurodermatitis if you have another type of eczema.

Learn more about neurodermatitis.

What are the symptoms of eczema on feet?

Symptoms of eczema on the feet may depend on the type of eczema.

Dyshidrotic eczema causes:

  • painful, small blisters
  • itching or burning sensation, which might appear before the blisters
  • dry or peeling skin
  • skin fissures and cracks

The main symptom of neurodermatitis is intense itching. Neurodermatitis can appear as a patch of skin on the feet and prompt an itch-scratch cycle that can be difficult to break. 

What are the treatments for eczema on feet?

Because eczema can appear differently on each person, doctors may recommend an individual treatment plan for your specific symptoms.

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons says general treatments for foot eczema include:

  • avoiding scratching, as this will make eczema worse and could lead to serious complications, like infections
  • applying a cold compresses to itchy areas
  • applying hydrating lotions and creams
  • applying corticosteroid cream to reduce inflammation 

Dyshidrotic eczema

Doctors treat dyshidrotic eczema by drying out the blisters, usually through corticosteroids applied to the skin or using a cool compress to soak the area, then letting it dry.

Other therapies for dyshidrotic eczema that might help include:

  • light therapy
  • topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs)
  • oral steroids
  • botulinum toxin injections to stop the sweating that can make eczema worse

Neurodermatitis

With neurodermatitis specifically, because the itching associated with it can be so severe, the main treatments aim to stop the itch-scratch cycle and heal the skin. 

Treatments your doctor may recommend for neurodermatitis include:

  • thick, fragrance-free moisturizers to soothe itchiness and keep the skin hydrated
  • topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling and itchiness
  • oral or injectable steroids to alleviate itchiness
  • a cool compress 5 minutes before applying corticosteroids to make the treatment more effective
  • antihistamines to ease itchiness and help you to sleep
  • coal tar preparation either directly on the skin or in your bath
  • creams to decrease itchiness, such as capsaicin or doxepin

Learn about treating and managing advanced eczema.

What does eczema on feet look like? 

View the slideshow below for photos of eczema on the feet.

Pictures of eczema on the feet

1-dyshidrosis-late-stage-hg-300x97.jpg

Dyshidrotic eczema

La belle morte, 2008.

2-neurodermatitis-lichen-simplex-chronicus-body5-hg-300x169.jpg

Neurodermatitis

Dermatology11/Shutterstock

3-dyshidrotic-eczema-foot-1296x728-slide2-hg-300x169.jpg

Dyshidrotic eczema

Custom Medical Stock Photo/Alamy

4-ijd-66-329b-g002-hg-300x238.jpeg

Foot eczema

Indian J Dermatol. 2021

When should I see a doctor?

You should contact a doctor when you develop new skin symptoms, such as:

  • itching
  • blistering
  • scaly patches
  • rash

Also, contact a doctor if your eczema symptoms do not respond to treatments or if they impact your quality of life. Let your doctor know if:

  • you are in severe pain
  • the eczema is spreading to other parts of your body
  • you have weeping or fluid leaking from the affected areas
  • your eczema is bleeding

Our eczema appointment guide can help you to prepare for your appointment.

How do doctors diagnose eczema on feet?

Doctors may diagnose eczema by examining your skin and talking with you about your symptoms and health history. Sometimes, a doctor may also do a prick test for allergies or take a skin biopsy

What are the risk factors for eczema on feet?

If you have atopic dermatitis, one of the primary risk factors for foot eczema is irritation. This can happen due to friction, sweat, or wearing socks.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema occurs more often in people assigned female at birth and adults 20–40 years old.

Other risk factors include: 

  • contact with certain metals, especially nickel
  • high levels of stress or chronic stress
  • laundry detergents
  • excessive sweating on the feet

Neurodermatitis

Neurodermatitis has many specific risk factors. It is more common in adults ages 30–50 years and tends to appear more in people assigned female at birth. 

Other risk factors for neurodermatitis are:

  • having an anxiety disorder
  • having psoriasis
  • wearing tight clothing, especially any clothing made of synthetic fiber or wool
  • having bug bites
  • having nerve injury
  • having dry skin 

Can I prevent eczema on feet?

Though there is no known way to prevent the condition completely, you may prevent symptoms from getting worse by:

  • following your doctor’s treatment plan, including taking any medications as prescribed
  • washing in warm water rather than hot water to avoid drying out the skin
  • applying a thick moisturizer to your feet daily, particularly after washing
  • avoiding harsh cleaners and laundry detergent
  • wearing properly fitting shoes and socks to reduce irritation and friction
  • using an outer sock layer to absorb sweat
  • letting your feet breathe without socks or shoes on as often as possible

Frequently asked questions

Reema Patel, M.P.A., P.A.-C., reviewed the answers to these frequently asked questions about eczema on the feet.

How do I get rid of eczema on my feet?

First, visit a dermatologist or doctor for a diagnosis. A diagnosis is vital to determine the treatment.

Treatments for foot eczema may include airing your feet out more, using medications to reduce inflammation and itchiness, and applying creams and ointments to hydrate the skin. 

Does eczema on feet go away?

Most eczema will need treatment. Eczema rarely goes away on its own. When it does, it tends to flare and reoccur. In some cases, children may outgrow eczema, but treatment is essential. 

What is the best cream for eczema on feet?

Thick moisturizing hypoallergenic creams may be best for eczema on the feet. Vaseline and mineral oil are also helpful. Avoid water-based lotions and creams because they will evaporate before hydrating the skin. In short, the “oilier” the better to lock in moisture. 

Summary

Eczema can occur anywhere on the body, including the feet. The two that specifically develop on the feet are dyshidrotic eczema and neurodermatitis.

Dyshidrotic eczema tends to cause painful blisters and peeling, resulting in cracked and dry skin. Neurodermatitis is marked by patches of intense itching and is usually made worse by an itch-scratch cycle.

A dermatologist can diagnose the condition, which will help guide treatment.

The goal of treating foot eczema is to heal the skin and stop itchiness and future flares. Doctors often recommend topical steroids on the skin, light therapy, and moisturizers.

Triggers to avoid eczema on the feet include footwear that does not fit correctly, washing socks in strong laundry detergent, and putting wool or synthetic fabric near your feet.

Contact a doctor or dermatologist if you have concerns about foot eczema. They can provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment.

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  11. Will eczema go away on its own? (n.d.). https://www.allergyinstitute.org/blog/will-eczema-go-away-on-its-own

Medical Reviewer: Reema Patel, MPA, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2023 Apr 10
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